- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

THE HAGUE Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic portrayed himself as a "victim" of the West and as a fighter against terrorism in a opening address yesterday at his long-awaited war crimes trial.
The deposed Balkan leader, addressing the three judges of the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Fomer Yugoslavia, likened his own role in the decade-long Balkans conflict to the United States in its battle with the "axis of evil."
Earlier, the former Yugoslav leader challenged the legitimacy of the court.
"This is a crime against the truth," he said during his hours-long opening presentation.
"The whole world knows that this is a political trial that has nothing to do with the law whatsoever."
Mr. Milosevic's legal advisers said they would next demand that the court summon former President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac and several other world leaders, as well as Richard Holbrooke, the main American envoy who negotiated an end to the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo.
"It is not up to us to persuade Clinton and others to come, it is the court's duty to do so," said one adviser, Dragoslav Ognjanovic. "They have to at least pretend they are giving Mr. Milosevic a fair chance to defend himself."
Legal scholars say that the court may have little option but to accede to the request, though it remains unclear whether it would attempt to subpoena unwilling international figures.
In his opening address, Mr. Milosevic spent much of the day berating the West.
He denied prosecution claims that he waged war to expand Serbian territorial control in the disintegrating Yugoslavia, claiming that he had never advocated an ethnically pure greater Serbia.
He proclaimed his pride in being a Serb and praised fellow Serbs for what he said were the country's more than 600 years of resistance to foreign invaders.
He accused the present leaders of running a "puppet regime" in the West's interests, and of being far too cooperative with the tribunal, especially in handing him over to it.
Using the theatrical sarcasm that has become his hallmark, he asked during the hearing how he could be expected to match the resources available to the prosecution:
"What do I have? Only a public telephone?" he asked rhetorically.
Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said later that Mr. Milosevic could have had the services of a team of investigators paid for by the U.N.-funded tribunal, had he not chosen to shun its machinery as a result of declaring it illegal.
Mr. Milosevic yesterday repeated his earlier claim that the court was inherently biased by labeling it a servant of an ongoing conspiracy by the Western powers to dominate the Balkans.
He spent much of the afternoon session showing grisly photographs of charred bodies and burning buildings inside Serbia to prove his charges that NATO's 78-day bombing campaign in 1998 had primarily targeted civilians.
That claim was partially backed by Richard Dicker, director of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, which has itself previously demanded Mr. Milosevic's indictment for war crimes.
Speaking to reporters during a break in proceedings, Mr. Dicker said that NATO had been "more than negligent" in failing to define its targeting rules.
But he said a long investigation by his group had concluded that deaths had not been deliberate and therefore that no war crimes had been committed by NATO forces.
Mr. Milosevic ridiculed claims that his soldiers and heavily armed police had deliberately driven hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes in Kosovo.


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